It’s hard to believe that we have been at this homeschool thing for a half-dozen years! Over that time I have found a few systems I use to stay organized and to keep school organized with three grade levels going at the same time. One of the most important set of tools I use is Google Suite products. We are an Android family, so Google’s cloud products are seamless between our PC computers and our phones and other devices. We use Google products in our schooling for planning and staying organized, completing school work and to play learning material including audiobooks. Join me as I share about each of the Google products we use during our school day.
Google Drive is cloud storage and available with limited space with all Gmail accounts. After 15 years, I have yet to hit the free storage limit on my account, and I also use the space to automatically back up my photos on my phone.
For our school, I use Google Drive as a teacher to stay organized. I have a folder for school materials and a separate one for each year and child. I keep my planning sheet file in my annual folder. I also store curriculum PDFs here if i might need to reference them away from home, and i can pull up book lists on my phone at the library or reference an activity at the park.
Each child uses Google Drive to store any papers they type and share them with my teacher email so I can easily see it and leave feedback. This also saves paper from printing everything they type. Each child saves their work in an annual folder making an easy portfolio at the year’s end. We are using a new language arts program this year which has a digital reader included. Keeping it on the Google drive and sharing it with the right student saves printing and makes it easy for either of us to access it when needed.
Google Docs is a cloud based word processor. This is the easiest app to integrate into our school routine. I find it loads much faster than my word processor on my computer and the documents I create are easier to access, as well, because they are in the cloud.
As a teacher, I use Google Docs to share assignments with my students. I have their reading comprehension questions typed up in a shared file. After their daily reading assignment they type their answers. Starting in 2nd or 3rd grade this has become the routine. It’s a simple way to introduce them to typing, and saves trees by not having to print their questions. Additionally, I can see their answers from my device when I choose to check in.
As each student becomes more comfortable typing, they have enjoyed having access to the Google Docs for creative writing. They can write their own stories or notes when they choose. Each child has their own device as well for enrichment and play which has Google Docs installed, so they can write whenever inspiration strikes. Since it’s in the cloud they can edit and share it easily from a larger device later.
Sheets is Google’s answer to Microsoft Excel. It’s a robust spreadsheet app. And it might be the app I use the most.
I do my weekly planning in a simple workbook using a template I made. I also use it throughout the year to plan unit studies and convention trips. I also use it to copy my Instructor Guides to one page overviews which work better for my brain and planning. I can also use it to track my spending to use for tax deductions and budgets.
Keep in Google’s note taking app. There are options to make checklists, type text, draw or include images in your notes. This app is mostly used by mom/teacher. I keep notes about curriculum a friend suggests, or books to look for at the library. I also keep shopping lists as back to school season approaches. I also keep a note with some of the student log-ins for the kids. I wouldn’t keep high security passwords here but I do for educational progress sites including Khan Academy or Code.org. I’m thankful that the Google Chrome browser will save them for each user as well but we aren’t always logged in for the right child so a back up is important.
For my students, I have experimented with sharing checklist notes with my students of their daily work. At this time, my students are 11 and under, so they’re a little young to be so attached to a screen that a digital checklist will work well, but it did work when we tried it. In the end, it proved to be easier on mom to copy and paste the assignment list in Keep than to hand write it in 3 different assignment books.
Play Music is under the Google App store, and you can purchase and stream curated stations. You can also upload your own music and audio from your computer to your account library.
Play Music is one way we use music in our homeschool. It’s a great way to make audiobooks accessible. Our history comes as an audiobook on 9 different CDs so I uploaded them to my Google Library and just have to hit play on the app to listen and don’t have to worry about losing any of the CDs. We also stream classical music for background music, and use songs from our library to create Google routines which we use as our “school bell” to get started each morning.
While not part of the Google Suite. Our smart speaker is an important tool to our school space. Not only to we use it to stream our Play Music library, but we also use it with our routines including turning our lights on in the morning by their smart plugs. When we follow a rabbit trail from a book we are reading and have questions we can ask Google to help us with the facts. If someone is in another room we can also broadcast messages across the house to them without leaving or screaming. We can also use it as a timer for a focused project.
Family Link is Google’s parent controls. As I mentioned before, we have personal devices for each child: no phone plans or social media, but devices for games and educational apps and photos. Our family approach to technology is teaching to use it wisely and not forbid it.
We have been impressed by the Family Link options. Both parents can control the child’s devices. Each app must be approved by a parent so you know what they are using. You can also set time limits per app or by total time on device. You can also set bedtime hours. Should a parent need to check in with the device after hours there is a parent unlock option. Also, you can see their phone use data from your parent device as well. And a feature we have used a few times is “Find device” to make the child’s device ring so you can find it.
Technology can be a great addition to your toolbox as a homeschool mom. It can help us be productive and do our best as long as we make it work for us and use it our advantage. The best curriculum or technology are only as helpful as which they help us meet the goals we have for learning and teaching our kids. We are the master and they are the slave. What tools have you found to make your homeschool journey easier?